Basic pet parenting rules caution you to always be on the lookout for changes to your dog's behavior, appearance or other features. Changes to the norm are often warning signs of health concerns. Hearing hoarseness in your dog's bark is another such abnormality, and it should prompt a visit to your vet's office.
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If you spend all day shouting, your voice gets a bit hoarse or raspy after a while. Similarly, if your dog is barking a lot and loudly, it takes a toll on her throat and the sound quality of her voice. Laryngitis, or inflammation of the vocal cords and area laryngeal mucosa, can result. If it's just been a particularly stimulating day for your canine companion, she'll feel discomfort when barking and rest her voice. However, if she's been barking a lot more lately, consult your vet and figure out why. Boredom, stress, anxiety and fear all trigger excessive barking, as can neurological health problems like cognitive dysfunction. Other problems causing your pet itchiness, pain or other discomfort, such as external parasites, an allergic condition or an unseen injury may also make your dog bark excessively.
Upper Respiratory Infection
Dogs catch numerous bacterial, viral and fungal upper respiratory infections, including the common cold and flu. Such illnesses present with a wide variety of symptoms, of which hoarse barking is one. Other typical symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections include sneezing, coughing, snorting, wheezing, foam at the mouth, pawing at the nose, head shaking, discharge from the nose or eyes, low-grade fever, laryngitis, difficulty breathing, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite and lethargy. See your vet, as your pet may need antibiotics or other treatments. Also, some parasitic worms inhabit the lungs as part of their infection cycle, sometimes causing hoarseness and other symptoms similar to those presenting with other upper respiratory infections.
If your dog is barking hoarsely, it's possible she suffered an injury to her larynx, pharynx or other body parts associated with her voice. Choke chains, tight collars, rope around the neck, external injuries like bites to the throat or foreign bodies lodged in the throat are the more common causes of such trauma. Often, but not always, dogs with laryngeal trauma breathe and seem normal while at rest but show symptoms during exertion. Head to the vet's office if you suspect any sort of trauma. Treatment varies based on the nature and severity of the problem, but often includes rest, anti-inflammatory medication, pain medication and surgical procedures.
Laryngeal Paralysis and Collapse
When the nerves that control the larynx become damaged, laryngeal paralysis sometimes results. This condition causes a hoarse bark, a croupy sound with inhalation, progressive bark weakening, noisy and labored breathing, laryngeal edema and fainting spells. Paralysis can result from trauma, hypothyroidism and as an effect of aging. Breathing restrictions can become fatal, so surgical widening of the airway is often indicated. Laryngeal paralysis, along with other airway obstructions, stenotic nares, an elongated soft palate, everted laryngeal saccules and other structural problems can also lead to laryngeal collapse. This is an emergency, requiring surgical intervention, as an affected dog is at risk of being unable to get enough oxygen.
By Jon Mohrman
MedicineNet.com: My Dog Is Barking Hoarsely
PetWave: Symptoms of Upper Respiratory Infections in Dogs
WebMD: Why Dogs Bark and Curbing Excessive Barking
WebMD: Laryngeal Paralysis and Barking Problems in Dogs
About the Author
Jon Mohrman has been a writer and editor for more than seven years. He specializes in food, travel and health topics. He attended the University of Pittsburgh for English literature and San Francisco State University for creative writing.